eczema hand washing

Eczema & hand washing in schools and nurseries

With all the increased focus on hand washing over the last few years, many children (and adults) have been suffering with eczema on their hands. For some parents this will be their first experience of managing eczema. For others, it’s an unwelcome additional factor they have to manage in their long battle to keep their child’s eczema under control.

What can I do?

Luckily there are some simple things you can do to help limit the impact of frequent hand washing on your child’s hands:

  • Give up the antibacterial gels and harsh soap products. The National Eczema Society advises that children with eczema should be allowed to do double hand-washing at school instead of using antibacterial gels. The process for this is as follows:
    • Wash with their own soap for 20 seconds. (Talk to your GP or pharmacist to find a soap formulated for sensitive skin. You can switch to using this at home as well.)
    • Then, immediately rewash for 20 seconds with their usual emollient (a medical moisturiser). If you don’t already use emollient, follow advice from your GP or pharmacist on which one to try.
    • Dry using a paper towel rather than a hand drier, as this just dries out the skin further. If the school is not happy about using paper towels, you can ask them if your child can bring in their own clean towel each day.
    • Once hands are dry, apply emollient (medical moisturiser) again.
  • At home and at school, moisturise hands with emollient (medical moisturiser) multiple times a day. Until the eczema has cleared up then very frequent application is best; ideally at least 5 to 6 times a day, particularly after hand-washing.
  • Whilst eczema is active, try and avoid too much messy play. Avoid contact with any irritants (including bubble baths and scented shampoo or shower gels). Emollients (medical moisturisers) can be used as a soap substitute in the bath if necessary.

The process above will involve working with your child’s school or nursery. Some will be very open to this, but realistically others may need more persuading. To support your conversations, the National Eczema Society have helpfully put together an information sheet which you can share with the school.

The National Eczema Society also have a page dedicated to treatment options for hand eczema.

Practical tips for managing eczema

If you’re struggling with your child’s eczema more generally, make sure to check out my post on practical tips for managing eczema in babies & young children. After 5 years, with lots of perseverance, trial and error, medical appointments and – most helpfully – learning from other parents, we’ve now at long last got to a point where it is pretty much under control for both of my kids. I’ve written up all the things I wish I’d known when I first saw eczema developing on my baby. The focus is on practical tips and managing triggers. I hope it will help some others avoid the lengthy trial and error process I went through!

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